The View From Here (23-06)

justine sitting in her car smiling wearing a black dress

“I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” – Helen Keller

Picture it …. a night out with good friends. You picked out the perfect outfit, you get all dressed up and get in your car to meet your friends at that great restaurant you’ve been wanting to go to for so long. You arrive at the restaurant, park on the top floor of the parking garage, because (of course) all of the other levels of parking are packed with cars. You get out of your car, dressed up and excited to meet your friends, who are already waiting for you at the restaurant. When you get into the elevator to go down to the first floor, where the restaurant is located, the elevator doesn’t work. The doors don’t close, and the elevator doesn’t budge. Okay. So, you get out and try the other elevator nearby. The same thing happens. The elevator doors won’t close, and the elevator doesn’t move. What do you do? “Just take the stairs?”

Well, as someone who is mobility-challenged, “Just take the stairs” isn’t an option. But it seems to be the one and only solution offered when elevators aren’t working. This happened to me recently at Merrick Park in Coral Gables. My husband and I were meeting friends at Sea Grill, a restaurant on the first floor of Merrick Park. We parked in the garage, and when we got in the elevators to go down to the first floor, none of them worked.

My frustration is not that elevators break. I understand that things happen. My frustration is that there seems to never, ever be an adequate solution or alternative offered to those of us who cannot take the stairs if an elevator is broken. So, what do we do? Just deal with it? Don’t go to that restaurant you wanted to go to so badly, that you got all dressed up for, and were so excited to meet your friends at? Don’t go to the doctor’s appointment you had, or the important office appointment you made…all because the elevator doesn’t work, and you just can’t get there?

How ridiculous is it that we just have to go home, and not do the things we want to do or need to do, because an elevator isn’t working and, even worse, there is zero alternative or solution offered for us to get where we’re going?

During the planning for our DIG monthly Supper Social Club, I met with Debbie Dietz at The Cheesecake Factory in Coral Gables for several weeks, getting ready for the event. The parking garage directly behind the restaurant, every single time I tried to park there had a sign on the ticket dispenser that said, “Elevator is Out of Order.” For over a month! So, I knew parking there was not an option for me. Yes, that’s frustrating to have to look for other parking. But, for those of us living with a disability, with mobility issues, searching for parking and finding it blocks and blocks away is a nightmare. Getting there then becomes even more challenging than you can imagine. For a few of our meetings at The Cheesecake Factory, I was able to park close-by on the street, others I had to park so far away it was ridiculous. If only they would offer some sort of alternative, or even consider an alternative for those of us with mobility issues, instead of just saying “you can’t park here,” or, even worse …. “Just take the stairs.”

I’m so grateful to organizations like DIG, who went to the City Commission with the facts about the parking garage situation this month, and now because of their efforts, we will hopefully be getting more accessible parking on the first floor in that garage, behind The Cheesecake Factory. And then, hopefully I’ll be able to park there …. finally. It’s advocates like DIG, who listen, research, and come up with real-life solutions, not just talk, who make a difference in all of our lives every day.

Oh….and that restaurant I wanted to go to at Merrick Park? I got there …. finally. With a lot of help from my friends helping me down the numerous flights of stairs. Luckily, I had people there who could help. We don’t always have that, but thankfully I did that day.